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March 5, 2024

India’s Soft Power Diplomacy: Buddha Relics Journey to Thailand Counters Chinese Influence

India has recently embarked on a significant diplomatic move by sending sacred relics of Lord Buddha and his disciples to Thailand. This strategic gesture, aimed at reinforcing cultural ties and countering Chinese influence in Southeast Asia, underscores India’s utilization of soft power in the region.

A high-profile Indian delegation transported the relics to Bangkok, where they were personally received by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. These relics, including those of Lord Buddha and revered disciples Arahant Sariputta and Arahant Maha Moggallana, will be exhibited across four Thai cities for a duration of 25 days.

The relics, originating from the National Museum in New Delhi and the monastery at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, hold immense significance. Their display not only commemorates the enduring friendship between India and Thailand but also coincides with the 72nd birth anniversary of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

In a grand ceremony at the Sanam Luang royal palace ground in Bangkok, the relics were honored with a guard of honor before being placed in a specially constructed red-and-gold pagoda for public viewing. The exhibition has garnered immense attention, with nearly 100,000 visitors, including devotees from neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, paying homage to the relics.

Amidst China’s attempts to assert its influence in Buddhist affairs, India’s proactive engagement through cultural diplomacy is noteworthy. The move is perceived as a strategic response to Beijing’s efforts to project Buddhism as an “ancient Chinese religion” and its maneuvers to influence the appointment of the Dalai Lama’s successor.

The timing of India’s initiative assumes significance against the backdrop of ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China endeavors to exert dominance in Tibetan affairs, India sees Buddhism as a key element in fostering stronger ties with Southeast Asian nations, particularly Thailand and Vietnam.

The journey of Buddha relics through Thailand serves as a symbolic assertion of India’s commitment to promoting peace, harmony, and cultural exchange in the region. By leveraging its rich heritage and spiritual legacy, India reinforces its stature as a guardian of Buddhist traditions while countering China’s attempts at cultural hegemony.

As the relics continue their tour across Thailand, from Chiang Mai to Ubon Ratchathani and Krabi provinces, India’s soft power diplomacy emerges as a potent tool in shaping regional dynamics and fostering enduring partnerships in Southeast Asia.

Rajan Shukla

Rajan Shukla

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